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Dr Michael Harbottle

Dr Michael Harbottle

Director of Recruitment and Admissions

School of Engineering

+44 (0)29 2087 5759
W/2.33, Queen's Buildings - West Building, 5 The Parade, Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 3AA
Media commentator


Prospective research students I am happy to consider applications for PhD study from high quality applicants with existing funding, or those intending to apply for an external scholarship, in areas which correspond to my fields of expertise, described below. Please contact me via email. Any funded studentships or postdoctoral research positions that become available will be advertised on, or the School of Engineering`s webpages.

Current Interests Currently, my group is undertaking work in a number of areas of civil and environmental engineering. I am particularly interested in four general areas:

  • Interactions between civil and geotechnical engineering and biology (‘biogeotechnics’). Many organisms, particularly plants and microorganisms, have the potential to impact on soil structure and properties. We are developing a number of projects in this area, for example in situ biofilm growth for soil stabilisation and self-healing of geotechnical structures.
  • Biotechnology in contaminated land remediation. We are using living organisms, both plants and microorganisms, in a range of projects. These include dealing directly with contamination through bioremediation as well as using biological methods to enhance other techniques, particularly those that are operated in situ, such as pump and treat or electrokinetics.
  • Electrical properties of soil and groundwater. We are using electrokinetic techniques for the remediation of metal- and organic-contaminated ground, as well as investigations of potential energy applications.
  • Resource recovery from waste. Many waste repositories contain significant quantities of valuable elements but their recovery has been considered uneconomic or not feasible (or both). We are investigating technologies for material recovery in a range of waste types.

Major Projects

  • Resilient Materials for Life (RM4L) (EPSRC, EP/P02081X/1, £6.0M, 2017-2022), with Cambridge, Bath and Bradford Universities, builds on the technologies developed in the M4L project (see below) to achieve a transformation in construction materials using a biomimetic approach to create materials that will adapt to their environment, develop immunity to harmful actions, self-diagnose the on-set of deterioration and self-heal when damaged.
  • INSPIRE (In situ processes in resource extraction) is a project led by Cardiff, with Warwick University and the University of the West of England, investigating the potential for recovery of valuable resource from waste repositories through in-situ technologies (NERC, NE/L013908/1, £1.3M, 2014-2018).
  • Materials for Life (M4L) (EPSRC, EP/K026631/1, £2.1M, 2013-2016) was the first major UK investigation into self-healing construction materials. Together with Cambridge and Bath Universities, we are working on multi-scale self-healing mechanisms to produce new materials with significantly enhanced durability and sustainability.

Current research students

  • Khabeer Al-Awad is exploring the effect of biological exudates (‘biofilm’) on soil mechanical and hydrological properties. Such materials are known to affect particulate media properties in certain environments, such as seabed sediments, and so may be harnessed for engineering purposes.
  • Stefani Botusharova is applying the concepts of self-healing materials, previously considered in cementitious, polymeric and other materials, to soil structures. Stefani’s studentship is supported by BRE, as part of the EPSRC-funded ‘Materials for Life’ project on self-healing construction materials (Grant Ref. EP/K026631/1).
  • Chen Chunhui (supported by the China Scholarship Council) is exploring the contribution of microbial and plant based exudates to the geotechnical performance of planted soils.
  • Sunday Akinsola Oniosun has studied multiphase interactions of plant roots in unsaturated, NAPL-contaminated soils.
  • Claudia Peppicelli is researching electrokinetically enhanced in-situ resource recovery from waste (part of the NERC-funded INSPIRE project).
  • Steven Warwick is appraising technologies for in/ex-situ resource recovery from waste.
  • Syed Muaaz-us-Salam is researching the enhancement of delignification and subsequent methane generation in wastes in situ, particularly in terms of overcoming issues of heterogeneity (supported by the Environmental Research and Education Foundation Doctoral Scholarship).
  • Christine Spencer is researching aspects of self-healing in microbially induced carbonate precipitation in soils as part of the EPSRC-funded RM4L project (see above).

Completed PhD projects

  • Richard Gill (based at the University of Sheffield, co-supervised with Dr S Thornton and Prof J Smith (Shell)) investigated heterogeneity and electrokinetic transport of ions in supplying electron acceptors for enhanced biodegradation.
  • Ahmed Mugwar worked on biological stabilisation of inorganic contamination, particular heavy metals and elements of interest in radionuclide contamination.
  • Paris Alshiblawi explored the use of microbiological activity and bioclogging to manage sub-surface water flow.
  • Dan Herbert employed scale model tests and 3D digital image correlation (DIC) techniques in a geotechnical centrifuge to study flood loading on masonry walls.
  • Katherine Page investigated use of compost-like organic wastes as a substrate for short rotation coppicing on brownfield sites.
  • Ziad Milad studied the impact of landfill leachate on basic geotechnical properties of natural soil in Kuwait.


I have been a lecturer and now senior lecturer in geoenvironmental engineering at Cardiff University School of Engineering since September 2006. Following a Masters in Engineering at Oxford University, I joined Fugro Limited (UK), working on offshore and onshore site investigation and engineering. I then returned to Oxford University as a doctoral student working with the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (Oxford). Postdoctoral work at Cambridge University Engineering Department followed, with the SUBR:IM (Sustainable Urban Brownfield Regeneration: Integrated Management) consortium. Whilst in Cambridge, I was elected Fellow of Robinson College.

Committees and reviewing

Member of EPSRC Peer Review College (2017 onwards)

Institution of Civil Engineers Wales Ground Engineering Group - Chair (2015-17), vice chair (2014-15)

Institution of Civil Engineers Education Policy Panel (2012-)

Editorial Panel for Proceeding of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Ground Improvement (2016 onwards)

Editorial Panel for Geotechnique (2013-2016)




















I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. My current teaching is as follows:

Materials & Construction (1st year)

Professional Studies & Construction (2nd year)

Environmental Geotechnics (3rd year)

Major projects (3rd year)

Case study & dissertation (MSc)


In Situ Recovery of Resources from Waste RepositoriesSapsford D, Griffiths A, Harbottle M, Mahdi T, Cleall PNERC5680301/04/2013 - 30/09/2013
Investigation into Tar Contamination in the Blaenaovon mine water treatment schemeSapsford D, Harbottle MThe Coal Authority209001/03/2011 - 31/08/2011
To develop Ford's capacity in resource efficiency and environmental performance through improvements in waste management and effluent treatmentSapsford D, Harbottle MKTP and Ford Motor Company Ltd12571001/09/2010 - 31/08/2012
In situ recovery of resources from waste repositoriesSapsford D, Harbottle M, Cleall P, Mahdi T, Weightman A (BIOSI)NERC67145402/06/2014 - 01/06/2017
Response of pollutant chemistry, pathways and mobility to Short Rotation Forestry on brownfield SitesDr PJ Cleall, DR MJ HarbottleForest Research2750001/10/2010 - 30/09/2013
Developing the sustainable laboratory - WasteBrennan P, Gregory C, Whitmarsh L, Cullen-Unswa, Harbottle MHEFCW899901/11/2011 - 31/07/2012
Self-healing geotechnical structures through microbiological actionHarbottle M, Gardner DBRE6000001/10/2013 - 30/09/2016
Biological reactors as replacement to activated carbon filters for the treatment of contaminated groundwaterHarbottle M, Sapsford D, Mahdi TCeltic Technologies2500001/11/2010 - 31/10/2011
Materials for life (M4L): Biomimetic multi-scale damage immunity for construction materialsLark R, Gardner D, Jefferson A, Harbottle MEPSRC167202501/04/2013 - 31/03/2016

Supervised Students

Biopreciption of Heavy Metals and Radionuclides with Calcium Carbonate in Aqueous Solutions and Particulate MediaMUGWAR AhmedThesis SubmittedPhD
Developmemt Of A Methodology For The Physiochemical Charaterisation Of A Cutting Fluid Based SludgeSUTTON AlexGraduateMPhil
An Investigation of the strength of brickwork walls when subject to flood loading.HERBERT DanielGraduatePhD
Use Of Recycled Organic Wastes As Nutrient Sources To Aid The Growth Of Energy Crops On Brownfield SitesPAGE KatherineGraduatePhD
Mechanisms of the Removal of Metals from Acid and Neutral Mine Water under varying Redox SystemsFLORENCE KayGraduatePhD
In situ processes in resource extraction from waste repositories.ROBERTS Mark ThomasCurrentPhD
Enhancing groundwater remediation techniques through microbiological control of fluid flowALSHIBLAWI ParisThesis SubmittedPhD
Methodologies for the prediction and evaluation of potential resources within landfillsWARWICK Steven JohnCurrentPhD
Long Term phytoremediation of LNAPLS and residual oils in the vadose zone and capillary fringe.ONIOSUN SundayCurrentPhD
An Experimental Investigation Of Landfill Leachate Impact On Surrounding SoilMILAD Ziad AbdelsalamGraduatePhD